What are Some Native American Holidays?

Kristin Wood

There are several Native American holidays and traditional festivals. Most tribes have their own individual celebrations, but many of the holidays have common themes or purposes. The holidays often celebrate nature, the spiritual world, or people's ancestors. Popular holidays might honor the sun, the rain, or crops needed to sustain life. Many holidays stretch for a week, rather than just one day.

Native American celebrate several holidays and festivals.
Native American celebrate several holidays and festivals.

The start of the new year is honored by some Native Americans, although many tribes have selected different dates as the last day of the year. The Hopi and the Zuni both celebrate a new year's celebration on 22 December. This ceremony is called Soyal, and it is a time of renewal and purification. A ritual is conducted to welcome the sun back after winter.

Some Native American celebrate the harvest of crops.
Some Native American celebrate the harvest of crops.

The Makahiki new year festival is celebrated in Hawaii in October. It celebrates new beginnings and honors the Hawaiian god Lono, who represents fertility, music and rain. There are three phases of Makahiki, with the first consisting of purification and spiritual cleansing. During the second phase, the Native Hawaiians celebrate with hula dancing and athletic competitions. The final phase honors Lono and tests the tribe's current chief to ensure he is still worthy as a leader.

Machu Picchu was a major Incan religious center.
Machu Picchu was a major Incan religious center.

The Tewa Native Americans celebrate three dances throughout the year honoring a different animal each time. The year begins with a turtle dance, which remembers and honors the day of creation. For three days in October, they celebrate with the deer dance, which represents both femininity and masculinity. The next month, the buffalo is recognized, and the Tewa see this as a time of healing and life.

Ancestry is often celebrated by Native Americans.
Ancestry is often celebrated by Native Americans.

Native American holidays often celebrate the sun as a life-giving power, both physically and spiritually. The Inca called their sun god Inti, and they celebrated him during the Inti Raymi. This festival traditionally begins on 21 June, the southern hemisphere's winter solstice. The celebrations consist of elaborate dances and the wearing of many bright colors. Originally, animal sacrifices were offered in hopes of an abundant year.

Some Native Americans have holidays that honor squash.
Some Native Americans have holidays that honor squash.

The tribes typically celebrated the rain as often as they honored the sun. The Iroquois and the Mayans both held rain celebrations during their wet seasons. The Iroquois thunder ceremony was held for a week in mid-April, with celebrations during the ceremony including rain dances and story-telling sessions that pass along mythology explaining the cause of rain, clouds, and lightning.

Many of these holidays are about food, crops, or hunting. The Zuni, Cherokee, and Iroquois all have holidays to celebrate the growth and harvest of corn. Other crops honored among common Native Americans are squash, strawberries, and maple trees.

The Inca called their sun god Inti, and celebrated him during the Inti Raymi.
The Inca called their sun god Inti, and celebrated him during the Inti Raymi.

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Discussion Comments

anon322645

I want to know what are the most well known holidays for the Native Americans?

anon296197

The Native Americans got Animism from the Africans (not the Negroes -- there's a difference). Anyway, the belief in animalistic gods or animism is traced back to the Africans, and the Natives came from the east to the west on ships. Do your research.

anon295582

There are stupid people of all races. I think it is a fair question. We all know about the white man's holidays, but what of our own? All natives are one people. All people are one people, and there are too many tribes to mention, so sorry, but I am not offended when people call me "Indian," if for no other reason than that my genealogy would take a lifetime to explain.

anon232701

@BigBloom: Not all white people think the same. Stereotypes go both ways. I see what you mean, though.

Proxy414

This kind of question is like asking "what are some native Asian holidays?" Asia has so many different cultures, the question is ridiculous. America also was home to a bunch of native cultures which all were quite different from each other. Today, America has more of a unified yet diverse culture, but we must remember that it was not always so unified.

BigBloom

Animism is a very common religion, and the forms it takes can vary depending on region, tribe, and even family group. In Papua New Guinea, for instance, you have thousands of tribes which have remarkably different systems of speaking and celebrating their religions. America is no different. White man tends to group all natives together as one people, but this is simply not the case. There are too many holidays to mention.

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